TRA Snow and Sun, Inc. Designs Unique "Custom Mount" Solar Mounting System for the VLP Project

TRA Snow and Sun, Inc., provided Pura Vida Energy Systems, with specially designed solar mounting system for a 300 solar panel project in the seaside town of Jaco, Costa Rica.

When Nancy Wells of Pura Vida Energy Systems of Monroeville, Pennsylvania, was referred to TRA Snow and Sun, Inc. by Big D Electric of Cumberland, Maryland, her goal was to solve a couple of problems. She needed a solar mounting system that would span across a 20 foot valley on a metal roof as well as a system for the 16 story tower condominium complex in Jaco, Costa Rica.

The government exclusively controlled Costa Rica's electrical system until 2010 and it took a year for Pura Vida to establish their solar business there. They now have three locations in Costa Rica, and a license from the government to import renewable energy products duty-free and sales tax exoneration. Pura Vida is an expert in dealing with the import/export issues, environmental factors, and government regulations. Installing solar panels on the existing Vista las Palmas, VLP, condominium complex included systems on a tower, gym and several carports. The tower and carport designs provided special challenges.

Travis Washburn, CAD/CAM Engineer at TRA Snow and Sun, routinely sees various Flush Mount, Elevated, and Ballasted Solar Mounting Systems cross his desk, but he had never designed a mounting system spanning valleys quite like the VLP project in Jaco. Solar mounting rail spans are generally six feet or shorter to be able to withstand wind loads without being blown over. Washburn said, "The challenge on the elevated carport was the fact that the there was a twenty foot span across the valley that required engineered bracing at specific intervals. The twenty foot span is three times longer than the longest allowable rails span, requiring engineering and calculations." TRA engineers and Pura Vida were in constant contact with each other using information such as wind load and elevation to design a system that would hold up under their specific conditions. Recently completed in September, there are more than 200 solar panels mounted using TRA's engineered Elevated System on several carports and entrances to the complex.

The condominium tower was another challenge for Pura Vida due to its height - 236 feet or 16 stories. Nancy Wells, Design Engineer for Pura Vida, stated, "For some of our first projects we cut the racking using locally obtained rails. For this one, we felt we needed some engineering so we contacted a number of different companies and their responses were usually, 'A tower that is 236 feet off the ground? You can't put racking up there. We can't warrant that it will withstand the wind.'" TRA was able to design a Flush Mounted Solar Mounting System that is warranted against wind uplift, sheer and wind download. There are now 80 panels and micro-inverters securely mounted on the tall ocean view condominium tower providing energy for the common property, which includes lighting, elevators, two redundant air condition chiller units, along with water and pool pumps for the 51 residential units in the building.

Wells explains the benefits of TRA's engineering, "TRA was so patient with us. They knew what questions to ask and stayed with it until we found the correct solutions. Their effort to provide the custom engineering was very important. Because TRA has the experience in this field, they also knew the right questions to ask us. We relied heavily on that in this project."

TRA Snow and Sun, Inc., located in American Fork, Utah, offers Roof Snow Retention Devices, Solar Mounting Systems and Roof Ventilation and Flashing Solutions. They provide all customers, from the individual homeowner to the big developer, free engineered designs for all their systems. For more information call Travis Washburn at TRA Snow and Sun at 800-606-8980 or visit

Pura Vida Energy Systems, S.A. is a group of Costa Ricans and Americans working together to provide cost-effective solar energy solutions to businesses and individuals in Costa Rica and to promote the use of renewable energy by offering premium equipment and engineering backed by world-class customer service and support. More information is available at

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